Trump Forgets Congress Exists, Orders Creation of Space Force

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Earlier today, Donald Trump bragged about the booming economy, defended his policy of separating refugee parents from their children, declared that one of his favorite places to visit is Alabama, and threatened to fire a new agency head if he screwed up.

In other words, a pretty standard rally speech he probably gave in Birmingham, Montgomery or someplace else in the Yellowhammer State (it’s a bird).

Only, in this case, he was in the White House at the third meeting of the National Space Council, whose agenda focused on space traffic management and how to leverage commercial activities in exploring the moon.

Trump didn’t disappoint here, either. Overshadowing the progress in these areas and the efforts of his vice president, Mike Pence, who chairs the council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to create an independent, separate but equal branch of the military: the Space Force. This new military service, which would be carved primarily out of the U.S. Air Force, would enable the America to dominate space, the president said.

Of course, Trump can’t simply order the Pentagon to do something so momentous; it will require the ascent of Congress, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) helpfully pointed out.

A similar message came from the office of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy,” spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. “Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”

So, stay tuned. The political fight has just begun.

Trump to Chair National Space Council Meeting on Monday

President Donald Trump signs an executive order reviving the National Space Council. (Credit: The White House)

President Donald Trump will chair the third public meeting of the National Space Council on Monday. The previous two sessions were chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, who heads up the council

I haven ‘t been able to find a time or agenda for the meeting, but when it does go live the event will be shown on NASA TV (https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html) and the White House Live website (www.whitehouse.gov/live/).

Although there is no published agenda, one likely topic of discussion is Space Policy Directive 3, which is focused on how the government will handle space traffic management.

The Space Council’s Users Advisory Group is scheduled to meet on Monday at NASA headquarters from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. The meeting will be webcast via Webex and be available via phone dial up.

Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal reports that former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former NASA Ames Director Pete Worden have been dumped from the advisory group due to issues involving their business and financial ties.

SpaceX Scrubs, Pence Announces Stuff

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX has scrubbed the launch of NASA’s TESS exo-planet hunting satellite, which had been planned for Monday evening.

“Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of on Wednesday, April 18,” the company tweeted.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs earlier today. He made the following announcements:

  • Ret. Adm. Jim Ellis has been named to lead the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group; and,
  • The space council has come up with a set of guidelines on space traffic management that will be signed by President Donald Trump and implemented by the Commerce Department.  A key goal of the new guidelines is to deal with the threat of orbital debris.

That’s all, folks!

Pence to Make Some Sort of Announcement on Monday

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

 

Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Monday. His address is set for 12:00 p.m. MDT (2 p.m. EDT) and will be webcast at https://www.youtube.com/c/SpaceFoundation1/live.

During an appearance with Politico Live on Thursday, National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace said that Pence will make some of space policy announcement. He declined not elaborate.

The Vice President heads the National Space Council and has been very active in formulating space policy and budgets.

Trump Administration Unveils America First National Space Strategy

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)

White House Policy Statement

“Our travels beyond the Earth propel scientific discoveries that improve our lives in countless ways here, right here, at home: powering vast new industry, spurring incredible new technology, and providing the space security we need to protect the American people.”

— President Donald J. Trump

AMERICA FIRST AMONG THE STARS: President Trump’s National Space Strategy works within his broader national security policy by putting America’s interests first.

  • The Trump administration’s National Space Strategy prioritizes American interests first and foremost, ensuring a strategy that will make America strong, competitive, and great.
  • The new strategy emphasizes dynamic and cooperative interplay between the national security, commercial, and civil space sectors.
    • The United States will partner with the commercial sector to ensure that American companies remain world leaders in space technology.
  • The new strategy ensures that international agreements put the interests of American people, workers, and businesses first.
  • The National Space Strategy prioritizes regulatory reforms that will unshackle American industry and ensure we remain the leading global provider of space services and technology.

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A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees


So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.

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Bridenstine Nomination to Run NASA Remains Blocked in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Bloomberg has an update on the impasse in the Senate over the Trump Administration’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA administrator.

Bridenstine has been blocked by all 49 Senate Democrats. Florida’s Congressional delegation enjoys an outsized influence on NASA because of Cape Canaveral, and Senator Bill Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, isn’t a Bridenstine fan. His colleague Marco Rubio, the junior senator for the Sunshine State and a Republican, doesn’t want Bridenstine, either. With fellow Republican John McCain of Arizona absent for cancer treatment, that leaves confirmation 50-49 against….

Beyond [Acting Administrator Robert] Lightfoot, the lack of movement on Capitol Hill effectively leaves NASA leadership to Scott Pace, executive director of the National Space Council, which [Donald] Trump revived last summer. The council has taken a direct role in overseeing NASA’s priorities, including the administration’s 2017 directive to return astronauts to the moon, but doesn’t have the same hands-on role an administrator would. Bridenstine has attended both National Space Council meetings, in October and last month, but only as an observer.

Rubio has argued that the NASA post shouldn’t be occupied by a politician, particularly one with stridently partisan positions. “It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics, and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” he told Politico in September.

Bridenstine, a member of the highly conservative House Freedom Caucus, has drawn Democratic opposition for his views on gay marriage and abortion rights, as well as past statements dismissing climate change. And he may have rubbed Republican Rubio, and possibly McCain, the wrong way on account of his past support for their primary opponents.

In the 2016 presidential primaries, Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot with an interest in space issues, produced several advertisements supporting Texas Senator Ted Cruz in his failed quest for the Republican nomination. Those ads criticized Rubio, also a candidate, for his position on immigration and attacks on Cruz. Rubio has reportedly denied a connection between Bridenstine’s past barbs and his opposition to the NASA nomination. Bridenstine also supported McCain’s Republican rival, Kelli Ward, in a fierce 2016 primary campaign that McCain eventually won.

Read the full story.

Report: Nield Departure from FAA Linked to Space Deregulation Push

FAA AST’s George Nield

The Wall Street Journal reports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.

But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.

The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.

Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.

Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.

Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.

Read the full story.

National Space Council Approves 4 Recommendations on Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:

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Pence Names Candidates for National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group

Mike Pence

WASHINGTON (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, today announced the candidates selected to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Pending official appointment by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the selected members of the Users Advisory Group will serve to fulfill President Trump’s mandate to “foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange” across our nation’s space enterprise.

The announcement as made on the eve of the second meeting of the National Space Council. “Moon, Mars, and World Beyond: Winning the next Frontier” includes testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise.

Selection to the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group:

  • Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut
  • Tory Bruno, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance
  • Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman
  • Dean Cheng, Scholar at the Heritage Foundation
  • Eileen Collins, 4-time Shuttle astronaut, first female shuttle commander
  • Steve Crisafulli, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
  • Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
  • Adm. Jim Ellis, Retired 4-star Admiral, former head of STRATCOM, and member of the Space Foundation Board of Directors
  • Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space
  • Newt Gingrich, Author, former Speaker of the House
  • Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Homer Hickam, Author of the book “Rocket Boys” and former NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center engineer
  • Governor Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama
  • Fred Klipsch, Founder and Chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education
  • Les Lyles, Retired 4-star Air Force General and member of the NASA Advisory Council
  • Pam Melroy, 3-time Shuttle astronaut and former Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Dennis Muilenberg, CEO of the Boeing Company
  • Faith Ozmen, CEO of the Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • G.P. Bud Peterson, President of the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 Astronaut and former Senator
  • Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX
  • Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin
  • Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
  • David Thompson, Founder and CEO of Orbital ATK
  • Pamela Vaughan,, Board Certified Science Teacher
  • Mandy Vaughn, President of VOX Launch Company
  • Stu Witt, Founder of Mojave Air and Spaceport, former Navy pilot, former Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
  • David Wolf, 4-time Shuttle astronaut and physician
  • Pete Worden, Former Air Force General and NASA Ames Center Director.

Mike Pence to Lead National Space Council Meeting on Wednesday

Mike Pence

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — On Tuesday, February 20, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, he will tour the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch facilities and participate in a commercial spaceflight federal reception.

On Wednesday, February 21, Vice President Pence will lead the second meeting of the National Space Council at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Moon, Mars, and  Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier,” will include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise. The Vice President will conclude his visit with a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.

UPDATE: NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the meeting beginning at 10 a.m. EST.

A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC


The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
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NASA Establishes Advisory Group for National Space Council

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has established a new advisory group on behalf of the National Space Council that will represent the expertise, interests and perspectives of non-federal aerospace organizations to the National Space Council.

The official charter for the Users’ Advisory Group (UAG) was signed by acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on Dec. 6, and subsequently announced in the Federal Register. It explains, in detail, the role, responsibilities and operation of the advisory group.

The UAG will advise and inform the National Space Council on a broad range of aerospace topics, including the impacts of U.S. and international laws and regulations, national security space priorities relating to the civil and commercial space sectors, scientific and human space exploration priorities, and ways to bolster support for U.S. space priorities and leadership in space.

The UAG will consist of between 15 and 30 members selected to serve in the capacity of either a representative or a special government employee (SGE). Representatives will come from non-federal aerospace organizations, such as private industry, and act as advocates for their sector. SGEs will be selected for their expertise in their particular aerospace field to provide objective advice. More information on the member nomination process will be made available later this month.

The charter is available online at:

https://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/acmd.html